Deborah Ross

Humourless and stale: The Batman reviewed

Will the Batman reboots ever end?

Humourless and stale: The Batman reviewed
The darkest hour: Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and Robert Pattinson as Batman in the perpetually miserable Gotham City. Credit: Jonathan Olley/™ & © DC Comics
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The Batman

15, Nationwide

The latest Batman film, The Batman, may be a reboot, or even a reboot of a rebooted reboot that’s been rebooted. Hard to tell any more. Tracey Ullman once joked that her mother had served leftovers for so long that no one could recall the original dish and this feels like that. What was the original dish? Was it Tim Burton’s version from 1989 starring Michael Keaton? I don’t know.

All I know is that you hope each time for something fresh and surprising and entertaining but every film since has simply attempted to out-film noir the last. We can go darker still! Bruce Wayne, more traumatised by his childhood than ever before! I should also warn you that it’s three hours long having been cut down from four. (Holy cow, Batman!) You can criticise this film for its lack of new ideas or the jackhammer cutting-style – hang on, how did Batman suddenly get from here to there? – but you can’t say that it doesn’t take itself seriously. You can’t say that about it at all.

Ben Affleck, who had starred as Batman in the three previous reboots of rebooted reboots – Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Justice League – was due to produce, direct, co-write and star in this outing but had reservations about the project and dropped out, which is never a good sign.

Instead, it’s directed by Matt Reeves (the last two Planet of the Apes movies) with whatever is the opposite of a light touch and stars Robert Pattinson as our caped crusader by night, and Bruce Wayne by day, not that it ever is day. It is perpetually dark, miserable and raining in Gotham City. And this opens in the rainy dark with a voiceover from Batman at his most meaninglessly Raymond Chandler – ‘You think I’m hiding in the shadows… I am the shadows’ – and then we cut to Gotham’s mayor being hammered to death by the Riddler (Paul Dano). He’s our mad villain wearing what appears to be a gimp mask and to finish the look it’s glasses on top. I doubt he’ll become a top fashion influencer. It’s not a look I’ve seen in GQ, but I’m not a regular reader.

The Riddler has childhood issues too and in a plot that’s impossible to care about he sets about killing all the city’s top corrupt officials while leaving riddles for Batman to decipher. Stars fly by your eyes, including John Turturro, Colin Farrell and Peter Sarsgaard, while Jeffrey Wright plays the detective who becomes Batman’s right-hand man. Where’s Robin? No sign of Robin. Did something happen to Robin in one of the rebooted reboots? Arthur (Andy Serkis), the faithful butler, is around, but only for half the film which would, of course, be the whole film if this were of a reasonable length. Meanwhile, Zoë Kravitz plays Catwoman although no one bothers to make her especially cat-like – unless you know a cat that excels at high kicks, martial arts and riding a motorbike.

There is shuddering set-piece after set-piece – explosions, floods, car chases, hands-on violent combat – with nothing innovative of note. Usually you do, at least, get (lame) jokes between the action sequences but this is so humourless and deadly serious you don’t even get that. We’re at the point where they’ve sucked all the fun out of this genre. (Christopher Reeve in Superman – is that the last time these films were fun? And camp?) Pattinson is an actor I admire but his Bruce is monosyllabic and clinically depressed, I would say – he is reclusive, can’t connect with anyone, has limp hair – while his Batman is much the same, but bulkier. There are no other traits for Pattinson to play with. As for the ending, it appears to be a set-up for yet another rebooted reboot of a reboot. It will never end.